Outward bound

In what has become a regular autumnal occurrence, Washington, D.C., Cleveland, and Broward Country, Florida, school systems find themselves embarked upon yet another year of declining enrollments. And they're not alone. Big-city districts nationwide are shrinking faster than an Arctic icecap. So why are students fleeing these urban jungles for presumably greener pastures? Stiff competition from charter schools and other schools-of-choice may be partly to blame, but broader societal trends (middle class families continuing to decamp for the suburbs or to cities with stronger economies) are also factors. But shed no tears; the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes that a "shrinking enrollment is a call to arms, not a call to wave the white flag." Kudos to that sentiment; competition in particular is supposed to spur systems to improve. But if fewer students attend failing big-city districts, is that such a tragedy?

"Broward schools down 3,167 students," by Hannah Simpson, Miami Herald, September 22, 2008

"D.C. School Rolls Decline, Preliminary Tally Shows," by Bill Turque, Washington Post, September 20, 2008

"The Cleveland schools will keep getting smaller unless they get smarter," Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 22, 2008